Friday, September 12, 2008

'Dixie' promises to flip your lid | www.azstarnet.com ®

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'Dixie' promises to flip your lid
Stories by Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 09.12.2008



"Hello?"
I recognize the airy voice with the Southern accent right away. It's Dixie. I had spoken to her not an hour before about "Dixie's Tupperware Party," which she stars in and is bringing to the Invisible Theatre. The production here launches the show's national tour.
"May I speak to Kris Andersson?" I ask. Andersson is the creator of the show.
He's also Dixie, a Tupperware salesperson disguised as a sassy, irreverent, ribald broad in a gingham dress, red wig, garish lipstick, and a deliciously over-the-top personality.
"Oh, this must be Kathy," Dixie says in her sweet-yet-kinda-deep voice.
"Kris is helping me pack for the tour. I'll get him."
She steps away from the phone and sings out, "Kris, it's for you."
A deep, muffled voice, sans any discernable accent, responds.
"I'll be right there."
This is just a bit surreal. I wondered, momentarily, if I was stuck in a "Boston Legal" episode.
Andersson is Dixie. I know it. She knows I know it. He knows I know it.
But when we asked for an interview, we were told we could talk to Andersson. Or Dixie. Or both. But not at the same time. The illusion that one was not the other must be maintained.
That in spite of the fact that Andersson has owned up to the double persona many times in print.
Ah well. Maybe it's the prospect of a national tour that has compelled him to draw a line 'tween Dixie and Kris.
Andersson hit upon the idea of Dixie about seven years ago, when he went to a friend's Tupperware party.
"It sounded hilarious — but my friend was actually supporting her entire family that way," he said in a 2007 interview.
"And I thought, 'What have I got to lose? At least I'll get free Tupperware.' "
He tried several personalities, settled on Dixie, started giving in-demand Tupperware parties and became one of the company's top sellers.
Finally, a director friend caught his act and persuaded him to make it a show.
That's what he told the New York Post.
Here's what he told us:
"I have written for a couple of other people," he said in the phone interview. "When I see people who make me laugh, I talk to them. I saw Dixie at a Tupperware party and I went up to her and said I wanted to work with her. I interviewed her and asked her tons of questions. Her life was so weird and eccentric. I started watching the way women react to her, and the way the women reacted to each other when she was there. They seemed to change as the party went on. … Dixie emboldens people."
Andersson's voice is tender when he talks about Dixie. She is another person to him. He likes her. A lot.
"I've baby-sat her kids," Andersson said, continuing the charade beyond the point that seems, well, reasonable.
"They are really great kids for having a mom as crazy as she is."
And it seems clear that Dixie is who Andersson isn't.
"I don't think I'm nearly as bold as she," he said.
"She's a spitfire and I'm a little clumsy. … I always marvel at the way she lets the big things roll off her back. I sort of wish I were that way."


Is your Tupperware supply low?
Stock up at "Dixie's Tupperware Party," opening at Invisible Theatre next week.
It's a play, sure. But it's also a Tupperware party.
You'll have a name tag, you'll laugh, and in the end, you can cough up some dough for the burping plastic storage containers.
Selling was the original intent of "Dixie's Tupperware Party," and Dixie has sold so much that she's one of Tupperware's top salespeople.
Which raises the question: How does Tupperware feel about its products being sold by a man in drag who uses the items as falsies, for Jello shots, and who often refers to what she sells as "crap"?
"I thought it would be safer to contact the Tupperware people," said Kris Andersson, the creator of "Dixie's Tupperware Party."
"If we were going to do something with a big corporation, I didn't want to do something that would get either of us in trouble."
On the contrary. The Tupperware bigwigs made the trip to New York to see the play when it played off-Broadway.
They all loved it, Andersson said.
"I think they thought it wouldn't be such a big thing. When it started to get press and a lot of attention, and Dixie started to get a lot of press, we'd check in with them. It blew us away when it went to off-Broadway. And Tupperware gave us about $30,000 worth of free bowls for the show."
We snagged an interview with Dixie Longate, top Tupperware salesperson and the star of "Dixie's Tupperware Party," which the Invisible Theatre opens next week. She spoke to us by phone from her "single-wide trailer" in Los Angeles.
Why Tupperware instead of say, Avon, or lingerie?
"I got out of prison, and my parole officer got me started. She had a candy dish, and I'd eat the candy out of this purty plastic dish. She told me it was Tupperware. I needed a job in order to get my kids back, and she said, 'Why don't you try to sell Tupperware?' She was able to get rid of some of the restraining orders against me so I could do that. I went to my first party, and talked about the plastic crap. I made money, and I just kept doing it. Aug. 31, 2001, was my very first party.
"I go into people's homes — to me, that's part of the fun. And I get to test new products. I make a lot of money and I have a good time."
Have you a favorite Tupperware piece?
"Oh my Lord, the Jello shots. It's really for cup cakes, but it's perfect for Jello shots. And then there's the can opener — it never gets dirty. And the wine bottle; you can give that to your kids."
What is your big passion, Tupperware or theater?
"I love Tupperware so much; it totally changed my life. Theater gives me the opportunity to talk about Tupperware. It's so excitin' and wonderful, and the Tupperware corporation has been so great to me. This job has given me so much free crap. Tupperware has provided my car, and I've had three trips from Tupperware, so my passion keeps growing."
What's your favorite use for Tupperware?
"I've been doing this for seven years, and for the first few I thought it was just for the bedroom; I didn't know it was for the kitchen."
How many pieces of Tupperware have you sold?
"That would take me months to figure out. I've earned $219,000 this year. I'm real close to hitting the million-dollar mark. I'll have a kiosk set up at the theater so people can buy it. I don't want to talk about this amazing stuff and then deprive people of havin' it."
You have three children. Do you think they'll follow you into the Tupperware business?
"I don't push it on them but I hope they do. If not, I just hope they stay out of prison."
What's the best part of selling Tupperware?
"I don't want the parties to be dull. The main word in Tupperware party is party."
Preview
"Dixie's Tupperware Party"
• By: Kris Andersson
• Director: Patrick Richwood.
• When: Preview is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Opening is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 5.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: Preview is $18; regular performances are $25-$27. Tickets purchased one-half hour before the show are half-price. Subject to availability.
• Reservations: 882-9721.
• Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.